Polyethylenimine (PEI) based polymers are efficient agents for cell transfection. However, their use has been hampered due to high cell death associated with transfection thereby resulting in low efficiency of gene delivery within the cells. To circumvent the problem of cellular toxicity, metal binding peptides were linked to PEI. Eight peptide-PEI derivatives were synthesized to improve cell survival and transfection efficiency. TAT linked PEI was used as a control polymer. Peptides linked with PEI amines formed nanogels as shown by electron microscopy and atomic force microscopic measurements. Polymers were characterized by spectroscopic methods and their ability to form complexes with plasmids was tested using electrophoretic studies. These modifications improved polymer biocompatibility as well as cell survival markedly, when compared to PEI alone. A subset of the modified peptide-polymers also showed significantly higher transfection efficiency in primary human cells with respect to the widely used transfection agent, lipofectamine. Study of the underlying mechanism of the observed phenomena revealed lower levels of 'reactive oxygen species' (ROS) in the presence of the peptide-polymers when compared to PEI alone. This was further corroborated with global gene expression analysis which showed upregulation of multiple genes and pathways involved in regulating intracellular oxidative stress.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2011.03.016
View details for Web of Science ID 000291193700019
View details for PubMedID 21477858
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3090516